The Portola District is known as San Francisco’s “Garden Neighborhood,” due in part to its pleasant weather and the large backyards which are a common feature behind most residential homes. Now considered a neighborhood in transition, it was until recently more of a ‘secret garden,’ located deep within the southeastern area of the city and bordered by Visitation Valley, The Excelsior, Bayview and Bernal Heights.
The Portola district developed into a traditional working-class neighborhood following the 1906 earthquake and the architecture of the area features a blend of Mediterranean style bungalows and mid-century homes. Its first residents were from a variety of cultures: Maltese, Jewish, Italians and African Americans and Asians. Today, its rich diversity extends to an eclectic mix of culinary fare, which now includes Central American and Mexican influence. On any street, it’s not surprising to find a Kosher deli right next to a Central American bakery, Chinese restaurant or the nationally recognized Johnson’s Bar-B-Que.
The Portola District is also home to McLaren Park, the city’s second largest park and a hotbed for recreation enthusiasts. The park takes up just over 300 acres and offers over seven miles of walking trails, a golf course, community pool, playgrounds and picnic areas. Popular destinations within the park include McNab Lake and the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, as well as extensive redwood groves, grasslands, and wetland habitats.
With over 19,000 residents today, the inclusive neighborhood has welcomed professionals, retires, singles and families from all walks of life in recent years. The active community still works diligently to improve the quality of life for residents by integrating the arts and promoting beautification efforts, with the goal of retaining its reputation as a peaceful area, accessible to the city center, but just outside its borders.
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